Grassroots Brewing

New ownership team revitalizes neighborhood favorite

By Greg Sabin
October 2019

Last year, Oak Park Brewing Co. ran into some difficulties. A fairly damning health inspector’s report followed by a temporary shutdown led to a permanent closure in July 2018. It was a blow to the rather bustling Triangle District of Oak Park, and was unfortunately not the last of 2018.

Later that year, Oak Haus, a German-themed restaurant right up the street from OPB, shuttered due to a sluggish run. Oak Haus was the second restaurant in the district for chef Tom Schnetz, whose La Venadita, a popular Mexican restaurant just a block away, seemed to be the only nearby eatery able to hold on.

There were questions as to whether or not the Triangle District and surrounding Oak Park businesses could make a go of it.

Well, here we are a year later and the action on Broadway, especially around 35th and 36th streets, seems to be in full force. No one doubts the draw of the neighborhood now.

In June of this year, a new ownership group of local standouts reopened Oak Park Brewing Co., retooled for success. The various partners and hands involved bring experience from a host of popular Sacramento kitchens and brewing outlets.
Partner Chris Jarosz is known for his chain of Broderick restaurants—Broderick Roadhouse in West Sacramento, Broderick Midtown, and locations in Folsom, Roseville and Walnut Creek—as well as prior roles with Localis, Saddle Rock and the food truck Wicked ‘Wich.

On the brewing side, Rebecca Scott and her husband Geoff were founding partners of the popular Track 7 Brewing Company in Curtis Park. They’ve already built a substantial lineup of beers for OPB and plan many more in the months to come. There will be an IPA or two as is mandated by unofficial California brewing rules. But Geoff is already putting out a solid lineup of drinkable, low-alcohol offerings like Not a Robot Red, Dance When the Music Stops Blonde and Dead of Night Stout. Not a one is more than 5.7 percent alcohol by volume.

Not unlike the previous iteration of OPB, this brewer isn’t afraid to share the wealth, and features other local beers on tap alongside his own. On my last visit, a special treat of Brewer’s Pale was on tap from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. I admire a brewer who shares his shelf space with what a less-confident purveyor would think of as a competitor, but what he thinks of as a compatriot.

The OPB kitchen started with a menu decisively aimed south, featuring dishes like crawfish etouffee fries and fried shrimp po boys. But the opening of Fixins, a new Southern restaurant just down the street, caused a rethink. Now the OPB menu is a solid barbecue and pub-grub affair, with hearty burgers, substantial wings and meats from the smoker.
Snacks like the deep-fried cheese curds are a perfect thirst-inducing treat. They’re indulgent paired with a harissa aioli. Add to that a side of sweet potato chips with house-made caramelized onion dip and you’ve got a good start to a good night.

The spicy chicken sandwich takes a slightly more barbecue tilt than the over-the-top Nashville style that some restaurants favor. Paired with plenty of pickles and slaw to cut the heat, the spicy fried chicken hits just the right notes. Rebecca Scott tells me that the vegan “cheesesteak” made with grilled oyster mushrooms is as popular as any of the meat items. It’s one of three vegan sandwiches on the updated menu.

The spicy chicken sandwich takes a slightly more barbecue tilt than the over-the-top Nashville style that some restaurants favor. Paired with plenty of pickles and slaw to cut the heat, the spicy fried chicken hits just the right notes. Rebecca Scott tells me that the vegan “cheesesteak” made with grilled oyster mushrooms is as popular as any of the meat items. It’s one of three vegan sandwiches on the updated menu.

As of this writing, the menu is still undergoing a few tweaks so I wasn’t able to try the soon-to-be-released PB&J burger, but just the description makes me think that this might be a signature dish. Tell me that you’re not just a bit curious: chunky peanut butter, blackberry jam, sweet pickled jalapeno, smoked bacon, seeded brioche bun. I mean seriously—that’s some next-level burger art right there.

Speaking of art, Rebecca tells me that OPB is more than excited to partner with local artists both in decorating the historical building and designing can labels for the many new beer releases slated for the next few months. One of the collaborations she’s most excited about is a craft malt liquor set to release this fall. Keep an eye on the website and social media for more details.

Most importantly, though, when I asked Rebecca why not start from scratch with a new restaurant idea rather than reopen as OPB, she said, “This is the neighborhood’s brewery; this is Oak Park’s brewery. From the musicians to the artists to the brewers, we want this to be a grassroots kind of thing.”

Oak Park Brewing Co. is at 3514 Broadway; (916) 389-0726; opbrewco.com.
Greg Sabin can be reached at gregsabin@hotmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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